My wife has a funny personality quirk, and perhaps there’s now psychological support for how it works out in the end.
So here goes: she likes to argue at bedtime. Not even bedtime really … often at lights out, or 5-10 minutes after. She’s got something to get off her chest, and she’s going to do it.
I have no doubt that it annoys her greatly that I’m not usually game by that point in the day.
Anyway, that’s the skinny. But I’m not really interested in that.
What I am interested in is that, almost always, after a good fight … she falls deeply asleep rather quickly.
This is interesting because she has quite a lot of trouble falling asleep most other nights. And it’s important to me: I’d wish her a good night’s sleep no matter what went on the day before.
And it really doesn’t seem to matter much what I do: argue back, respond passively, concede defeat, even just roll over and say I’m tired and I can’t do this right now. If she comes to a boil, she falls asleep afterwards. If she doesn’t come to a boil, her sleep pattern is more normal (and not that great in the way that is common for people in middlle-age).
This behavior extends to anxiety as well. If she’s anxious at night, and can’t sleep … she’ll often fall asleep after some emotional outburst at, say, the neighbor’s dog, or the TV.
So now, there’s new research showing that if you have performance anxiety, the advice to calm down and focus really isn’t helpful. Instead, you need to pump yourself up emotionally.
… Author Alison Wood Brooks, PhD, of Harvard Business School. ‘When people feel anxious and try to calm down, they are thinking about all the things that could go badly. When they are excited, they are thinking about how things could go well.’
‘When you feel anxious, you're ruminating too much and focusing on potential threats,’ she said. ‘In those circumstances, people should try to focus on the potential opportunities. It really does pay to be positive, and people should say they are excited. Even if they don't believe it at first, saying 'I'm excited' out loud increases authentic feelings of excitement.’
What I wonder, is if the excitement of the argument helps counteract the excitement associated with her anxiety? How else can I explain that sometimes she comes to bed pumped up (about me, about the kids, or whatever), and that when she pumps it up even further, she sleeps well?
Article: "Get Excited: Reappraising Pre-Performance Anxiety as Excitement," Alison Wood Brooks, PhD, Harvard Business School; Journal of Experimental Psychology: General, online.
Full text of the article is available from the APA Public Affairs Office and at http://www.apa.org/pubs/journals/releases/xge-a0035325.pdf